The Most-Spoken Language in Business
Being online today means something very different than it did 20-odd years ago, when digital communication exploded into the general domain from the cloistered world of computer science.
In the early 90s, forward-thinking businesses recognized the opportunity for globalization shimmering on the horizon. But today, “opportunity” is a misnomer: If they are online they are already global, whether or not they choose to embrace it and behave globally.
Being global is an outdated concept.
Not long ago, the global paradigm meant having an office in Madrid and Shanghai and flying to Paris monthly to work with partnerships. But we’ve moved beyond that, even if the framework hasn’t yet caught up to the reality. Being global no longer means staking physical footprints throughout the world, or jetting off to put boots on the ground on a colleague’s turf. If you have a website in this digital world, ready or not, you’re international. How you’re going to take advantage of that is up to you.
I was once looking to buy a telescope for a friend I’d visited in Norway. I’d taken a vacation, a break from thoughts of localization (or so I’d thought), and now I was back and wanted to send a hostess gift. I couldn’t get what I wanted on Amazon, but found a small specialty astronomy shop (in fact, the only one such place in Norway) online, and was able to order the telescope I wanted from my desk in New York. It occurred to me that while I probably was not their intended target customer — I live halfway across the world, don’t go to Norway on a regular basis, and don’t speak their language —we executed the transaction seamlessly. Funny, isn’t it, how owners of a business dedicated to the exploration of the universe probably don’t think of how global they are, themselves.
Being online these days means more than merely being online; from software downloads to video instructions localized into hundreds of languages, the lines are increasingly blurred between the physical and digital in a way that simply didn’t exist five years ago. Just look at Amazon; between Prime, Delivery by Drone, Whole Foods, and its own bricks and mortar, everything about marketing and delivery is integrated. But Amazon is not an outlier — it is the most visible example of what is the norm in business today.
Distribution and business models are morphing in a way that offers little delineation between the physical and the digital.
And yet amid the changes, one important factor continues to rise to the surface as a universal medium, and that’s the use of video. We live in a world where video represents the apex of storytelling and instruction as well as entertainment and education. The statistics of video use on YouTube alone are astounding. More footage is uploaded every day than the major networks have created in the last 30 years. And there are 3.25 billion hours of YouTube content watched in a single month.
Video has quickly become the easiest and most effective way to communicate.Research from John Medina, molecular biologist and author of Brain Rules, shows that when people hear information, they're likely to remember only 10 percent of it three days later. However, if audio is paired with a relevant image to convey that same information, people retained 65 percent of the information three days later.
What this means is that businesses can’t afford not to have video available to their audience. But it’s more than that: they can’t afford to have video available that their audience can’t understand.
Another thought: A population’s desire for innovation happens faster than a company’s ability to formally expand into their demographic, and is stronger than their interest in learning your language to get it. The more complicated the product, the higher the demand to communicate quickly. The speed of adoption in this truly digital, global world is driven more by the user and viewer than by the providers themselves. If potential users in an outlying market can see the benefit of the product instantaneously, they don’t want to wait for you to become nimble enough to cascade it down to their turf. The demand creates both an immediate opportunity for you, and for anyone else who can find a way to innovate the localization themselves.
To keep potential users in your camp, you need to make the product or service accessible, seamlessly. That doesn’t mean a whole rollout customized for their country. But it does mean you need basic information, and access, localized in those languages. And we aren’t talking about just a translated paper instruction manual.
With video as the primary way people absorb and retain information, the vendor with the best video will have preferential access to the end user.
Say, for example, a word processing application of a major software company has a mail-merge function. Users wishing to avail themselves of that function might have lost their ‘how-to’ manual (if they ever opened it, that is), or they might not feel like reading it. Suppose such a user in China goes online to figure out how to use the mail merge function, and in an initial search is faced with a pdf of the software company’s five-page instruction manual translated into Mandarin. But wait! The user clicks a bit further and finds an old lady in Beijing who made a home video illustrating how it’s done, amid her many other how-to videos about arts and appliances. Imagine that same “YouTube helper" building a following and then recommending other, competitive products. The software company has just been beaten to the punch by an octogenarian online, something easily addressed by embracing localized video as a communication tool with their global and decentralized market of today.
When it comes to video for global markets, it isn’t enough to hope your viewers understand the language you happen to present it in. The visual content needs to be paired with language understood by the potential users in each location. In some cases subtitling will suffice, but in many cultures, dubbing is taken for granted as the norm. It also depends on the content; the complex narration of documentaries requires dubbing, and so does material aimed at children. Not long ago, dubbing was a luxury reserved for large multinational corporations, a privileged service written into high-level contracts. Not anymore. Today, video can be dubbed into another language for the price of a purebred puppy or a laptop.
The moral of the story: The language of the global economy is not English, or Chinese, or Spanish, or Arabic. The language is video. And translating it for a world audience is both more important and easier than you could imagine, with the help of a skilled localization company.
Get in touch with CMI today to get your media to the right place, in the right language, in the right format and on time.
And, you may be interested in learning how CMI worked with software maker, Hubspot, to increase effectiveness and engagement of its online training academy in this complimentary case study.